After Kearney and Visitation Academy of St. Louis traded scoring opportunities, momentum shifts and stretches of defensive excellence for more than 100 minutes last Saturday in the Missouri Class 2 girls soccer state championship match, Kearney High School coach Jackie Haller offered a one-sentence reaction.
“Well, it’s obvious that the best two teams made it to the final,” Haller said.
Visitation Academy, however, was the one left standing.
Visitation Academy senior forward Sarah Price scored a game-winning goal in double overtime to lift her team to a 2-1 decision. The sudden-death score put an end to Kearney’s bid for its first state championship in girls soccer.
Kearney reached the final in dramatic fashion when senior forward Allie Hess scored an overtime goal to defeat Helias Catholic of Jefferson City in the semifinals. Hess scored a team-high 30 goals for the Bulldogs, who finished 23-4-2.
“It’s going to be a great memory,” Hess said of her senior year. “Any time you get to play in a state championship, it’s a great feeling. I’ve never been here before. So I’m just blessed to be out here playing.”
Hess completed a remarkable two-year run that included 55 goals. But it finished without the ultimate goal.
Trying for the first state title in school history, Kearney took an unbeaten record into the 2013 state tournament but lost to St. Dominic of O’Fallon in the semifinals. The Bulldogs made it one step farther this season but still came up short.
“We’ve all worked so hard for three months to get to this point,” said junior midfielder Lexie Howard, who scored the team’s only goal in the championship game loss. “It’s hard to see it all end.”
There’s no shortage of talent returning next season to attempt to make that final leap, although the team is set to lose five senior starters — Hess, defender Makenzie Pfeiffer, midfielder Brooke Salisbury, defender Jordyn Webster and midfielder Jessi Hartzler.
“It’s hard for them to think about it right now, but they have a lot to be proud of,” Haller said. “It was just awesome playing at the state tournament. It’s what you dream of in high school. And I think we’ll be back.”
Howard, Caitlyn Champ, Madilyn Payne and Elizabeth McQueen will be part of a senior class trying to make that happen. The Bulldogs are also in line to return soon-to-be juniors Ashley Coonfield and Allison Snapp as starters.